Astral Chain recently dropped on Nintendo Switch to almost unanimous critical acclaim, some calling it the best Platinum game to date. It was also Takahisa Taura‘s debut has a game director. Russian site sector.sk recently interviewed Taura-san, asking him various questions regarding the development, his inspirations and opinion on what he created. Note that I tried to make the most sense out of the translation so his answers here are more remodeled to keep it accurate than exactly identical.
Q: How long have you worked on Astral Chain?
We started about 3 years ago.
Q: Did the development go smoothly or did you encounter any problems?
In my life, I have not participated in any project whose development would run smoothly. The biggest challenge was to properly create the game’s world and a dual-character based system.
Q: Where did you draw inspiration for the creation of the Astral Chain world?
As I mentioned, the main mechanics of the game are two characters connected by a chain. When we had finished these mechanics, we realized that a police session, which also works with several mechanics, such as encircling enemies to bind them, was well suited to it. In Japan, cops are perceived as heroes and this session really suited to what we did with the game. Plus, I love animes like Psycho-Pass or Akira, so I drew some inspiration from these, but at the same time I wanted to keep it unique, I wanted to bring something of my own. In addition, the visual aspect of the game has a strong anime touch.
Q: Why did you choose this art style?
In the beginning, I thought about making a realistic looking game, but as Nintendo and I discussed, they suggested that we ask someone else to create art and character design. And this is how we finally arrived at the design of Masakazu Katsura, a well-known manga artist. When we decided to ask Katsura-san to create a character design for us, we wanted his style to stand out, but creating an entire anime-style game would be a little one-dimensional. So we decided to make the game environment more realistic, while the character design will be more in anime style. We think the combination of these two different styles works really well in Astral Chain. ￼
Q: There is a similar soundtrack in Astral Chain as in NieR: Automata. What mood and atmosphere did you try to evoke by playing the ost?
As for your remark that there are similarities in the music between NieR: Automata and Astral Chain, this is not something we would do intentionally. But maybe you have the impression that there are many songs with the female vocalist in Astral Chain, as is the case with Automata. I think music is extremely important when creating games. When you are in a battle scene, you want music to create a kind of exciting atmosphere. If the scene is serious again, you want the music to reflect that. For us, at Platinum Games, it’s very important. However, we develop first and foremost a video game, and instead of wanting to create feelings in people just because of the music itself, we want music to improve the overall gaming experience in our games.
Q: Why did you decide on these changes and why did you add the Legions as a second playable character?
As for the first question, it makes no sense to create another game with the same previous combat mechanics, but I also wanted to face a whole new challenge. These are the main reasons why the combat system in Astral Chain is different from previous games. I am also a big fan of Pokémon and I like games where the main character is throwing a partner and fighting this way, so I wanted to incorporate this idea into an action game. During the development, we experimented with the player having complete control of the Legion and I liked this style of play personally, but at the same time, it was very difficult to control two characters at the same time. Finally, we managed to find the right balance with this semi-automatic Legion movement, which was a good compromise.
Q: Have you been inspired by other games besides Pokémon?
I also like Atlus games, such as Persona and Shin Megami Tensei, so I think I have drawn some inspiration from these games as well.
Q: Did previous Platinum games teach you anything you used to create this?
When I start a new project, I try to reset everything. I am sure there are some things from the past that we have now improved, but I do not bind to the past and really reset when I work on a new project. So I cannot answer this question well. ￼ The game offers a number of side activities, but I was very interested in garbage collection on the streets.
Q: Is this an intentional environmental message?
Of course, throwing trash is important, and it’s something we should all think about, but the reason I incorporated this drive into the game wasn’t some environmental news for the audience. But like Mario, where you collect coins, here I wanted something that players could interact with during the game. It is not a message, but rather that players have something to collect while browsing the game. The game contains a strong family theme, there is also a lot of drama, action, a little comedy.
Q: Was it difficult to balance the game in these aspects in terms of story and gameplay?
During the development, we were really thinking about the balance of these elements and how we actually incorporated them into the game, and I think we did a really good job with Astral Chain to strike the right balance. If the whole game were to be serious, some people could get tired of it, so we decided to add a humorous tone and various side tasks for people to fulfill. We added them there in the belief that different people would find something to like in the game and I hope they found it there.
Q: I know you’ve worked with Nintendo in the past and even on their own games, but why did you decide to work with them on a brand new brand now?
I originally made a prototype for Astral Chain in Platinum Games and wanted to find a partner who could see the potential and help transform it into a full-fledged game. Finally, we decided to work with Nintendo. The game was not just a solo project of Platinum Games, it was actually a collaboration between Platinum Games and Nintendo. We had regular meetings with them where they gave us feedback on the story, difficulty and everything else.
Q: Was it difficult to create such a good looking and functioning game with larger sites for Nintendo Switch?
Making a game is still just making a game, so no matter what platform I’m developing, nothing changes. So there was nothing that posed a major challenge. The only difference is that you can play on the Nintendo Switch in both TV and handheld mode, so we had to make sure that the text was easy to read even on the small display when playing in handheld mode. A different experience compared to development on other platforms was for us this switching between TV and handheld mode and tuning the interface for both.
Q: And what do you like most about Astral Chain?
For me personally, these are the different actions you can do with a chain linking two characters. I chose it because I think it looks very good first of all. I think we have done a good job of creating a mechanism that shows that the two characters are connected. You can tie enemies and so on, so I think it visually and functionally represents Astral Chain in the best possible way.
That’s about it for the interview. One thing is for sure, the development was not an easy one but again, that’s to be expected in this medium. Taura-san and his team managed to craft something incredible out of these three years. Astral Chain is an action game developed by PlatinumGames and published by Nintendo exclusively on Nintendo Switch. It is directed by Takahisa Taura who was previously lead game designer for NieR: Automata, under supervision by Devil May Cry and Bayonetta series creator Hideki Kamiya.